Someone on ChowHound asked for the 50 things you ought to eat in North Carolina and I couldn’t resist. Thought you might enjoy it. I’d love to hear your area’s not-to-be-missed foods, too!!
We’ve traveled all over the world and eaten some awesome food, but North Carolina still can’t be beat. Here’s my list of must-tries in the Old North State:
Chicken Pastry (Your best bet for this is your grandmother’s house or a church potluck, but for years Strickland Dail Dining and Catering in Snow Hill/Farmville, NC has had wonderful real homecooking – it’s been awhile since I’ve been there, but that’s my first choice if I don’t make it myself)
Tenderloin Biscuits (Must be real, whole, fried tenderloin chunks, not the factory mess they serve most places. Flo’s in Wilson has the best biscuits in the entire world, bar none – also try their…)
Cheese Biscuits (Should be hoop cheese gooey in the middle of a yummy biscuit, not cheese throughout the biscuit dough. Try Flo’s above for the best ever.)
Fried Okra (not the heavy breaded grocery store and restaurant variety, but the kind you slice, stir in buttermilk and coat with cornmeal and a tiny amount of flour, then panfry).
Bread & Butter pickles, preferably homemade
Tomato Sandwich, fresh out of the garden, on white bread with Duke’s mayonnaise
Speckled Butterbeans (very rarely found at Farmer’s market, usually have to have a friend with a garden)
Half-Runner Green Beans, also called snaps, home-canned, then cooked with fatback
Pimento Cheese (If you can’t make it yourself, try The Creamery in Wilson for the closest to homemade I’ve had.)
Grits, if you don’t like them, you haven’t had them made right 🙂
Crowder Peas, served with ketchup, homemade relish and cornbread
White, not-sweet Cornbread crumbled into buttermilk
Corn Pudding, homemade from fresh corn
Real, Air-dried Sausages – Try Smith’s Red & White in Dorches, the best, though you’ll have to take them home and cook them. They make them the way they used to be made on the farms.
Eastern North Carolina Barbecue (There’s probably better barbecue than Parker’s in Wilson, but I don’t know of any other places that serve it just the way they did when I was a child. You have got to go there! If you’re in a group, order family style for a pigout session like no other. If you’re alone, order a large combination and fill up on these not-to-be-missed NC specialities, too:
*Chicken fried in pork lard…. yum, yum! Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
*Eastern NC slaw (extremely fine mince, sharp, clean taste that’s the perfect foil for the barbecue.)
*Brunswick stew (a red stew with chicken, barbecue, corn, lima beans, and a knock-your-socks-off taste)
*Boiled potatoes, with a dash of Eastern NC barbecue sauce added.
*Corn sticks, eschew the hushpuppies, those are for seafood, try the real deal here./
*Sweet tea that would attract hummingbirds
*Get a York Peppermint Patty on the way out the door for the perfect capstone to a classic meal.
Sausage Gravy on Biscuits – anybody know anyone who serves it like we make it at home?
Lexington Barbecue, be sure to get with it:
*Their unique Barbecue Slaw, and
Fried Chicken Livers (Bill’s Barbecue in Wilson is a great place for these)
Porkchop Sandwich (I hear the Snappy Lunch in Mt Airy is good, but for my money, you can’t beat White Swan Barbecue in Four Oaks for these – and their barbecue and chicken is great, too. Say hello to owner (and town mayor), Lynwood Parker, a real Southern character.)
Real Banana Pudding, homemade from milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla, ripe bananas and Nilla wafers, with meringue on top. Any substitutes are gross, the real thing is a joy. Strickland-Dail’s is good.
Real Macaroni and Cheese, homemade from small elbows, eggs, milk, butter, salt & pepper, and way more than you think Extra Sharp Cheese, baked until the cheese on top begins to get crispy around the edges. Pure heaven.
Hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Look for the “Hot Now” sign and drink cold milk as you eat them. Order more than you think 🙂
Fried Seafood Platter — all brown, all good 🙂 I like Silver Lake in Wilson. Get fries and slaw for your sides to be authentic. Ask them for extra horseradish for the cocktail sauce. It’s Calabash style and lots of folks go down there for it.
Fried Herring during the herring run. This is one I haven’t tried, but folks rave about.
Red Wieners – Carolina Packer’s “Brightleaf Hotdogs” are considered the classic in Eastern NC and folks around here won’t eat a hotdog unless it’s Carolina Packers.
Watermelon pickles and okra pickles
Just made Pork Rinds – not to be compared with the bagged variety
Cornbread made from Stoneground, local cornmeal. We like Atkinson Milling Co. We took the children there on a field trip and they still grind it with water-driven stones!
Johnston County Country Hams, Smithfield, NC Wow. Cook the old fashioned way — soak the whole thing and bake it whole (so yum), or the fast and easy panfry an unsoaked slice for salty strength of flavor.
Asheville barbecue — tomatoey, very different from Lexington or Eastern-style. We like Three Little Pigs. Hushpuppies are the thing here.
For hamburgers, oh dear, don’t miss the Char-Grill in Raleigh. Get a Steak or Steak Junior, with chili and cheese. And a chocolate milkshake and fries, oh how delicious!
Anywhere in North Carolina, we enjoy Cook Out, a NC chain that has terrific milkshakes (try Banana Fudge!) and great burgers.
My dh loves Cooper’s Barbecue in Raleigh for their pork rinds.
Awesome bulk breakfast sausage, for grocery store varieties, try Bass Farms, Nahunta or Neese.
You have got to get yourself invited to a real Pig Pickin’. Honestly, there is no substitute. Uniquely wonderful!
Blackberry cobbler, homemade with vanilla ice cream.
Peach cobbler, also called peach snook. The kind made from fresh peaches, pour melted real butter over them, then poor the batter over that and do not stir! Cook until crispy. Just had some last night and it was exquisite!
The collards at Bill’s Barbecue & Chicken in Wilson are the way they ought to be done — my children say they’re like a green pig (so much pork flavor)… 🙂
Also love strawberry rhubarb pie, but I haven’t seen rhubarb around here in ages. Curse of the chain groceries, I guess.
And Seven Layer Salad – haven’t seen but a few restaurants with this, but there aren’t many holiday tables without it around here. Crisp lettuce, peas, sweet onions, green peppers, bacon, cheese, and mayonnaise (I like salad dressing type) with brown sugar. Oh yum!
I can go on and on about South Carolina foods, too…